After years of reading mystery series, and wishing some of those authors would put out a book every six months, I decided to write a mystery of my own. I wanted to understand more about the writing process–creating a character who can grow through multiple stories, properly construct a good story arc, and place clues and red herrings in all the right places. The result was The Prairie Grass Murders, published in 2007 by Five Star, a medium-sized traditional publisher of mystery and romance/women’s fiction.
In future posts I’ll talk about my path to traditional publication without an agent, praise the mystery authors I love (especially Colorado mystery authors), and the differences between the way I promoted the first book and the new tactics I’m trying for book two.
Today, however, I’d like to introduce the protagonists of my mysteries, Sylvia Thorn and Willie Grisseljon. The two are brother and sister. Willie is the oldest, a Vietnam vet who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after a nearby explosion killed friends and left Willie in shock. When he was discharged from a VA Hospital stateside, Willie wandered the streets for a while, unable to reconnect with his elderly parents and younger sister.
Sylvia, a lawyer who formerly worked for the FBI as administrative support, tracked Willie down and helped him through a long recovery. Willie started his own accounting firm and reinvented his life when he realized his heightened sensitivity to flashing lights and loud noises included sensitivity to higher levels of communication. He’s open to these communications when they involve his sister, but he’s very reluctant to open the door to others (and he doesn’t want to explore who and what those others might be).
Willie loves his family, and is very protective of Sylvia. She’s had a few rough times as well. Her first husband, an FBI agent, was killed in an automobile accident. Later, she married an attorney who turned out to be a super grade A jerk. After that divorce, Sylvia focused on her career.
At the beginning of The Prairie Grass Murders, Sylvia is a circuit court judge in Palm Beach County, Florida. When Willie travels from Florida to Illinois to visit the farm where he and Sylvia grew up, he finds a body in a field. Because of Willie’s odd behavior after a brief flashback, a deputy sheriff labels him a vagrant with hallucinations and carts Willie to the hospital for observation. Sylvia comes to the rescue, but it’s Sylvia who needs to be rescued when she’s caught snooping around the old homestead.
In The Desert Hedge Murders, scheduled for release in August 2009, Sylvia accompanies her mother’s travel club (The Florida Flippers) to Laughlin, Nevada for a weekend of tours, eating, and gambling. When one of the club ladies enters her hotel room and finds a body in her bathtub, the gals decide to investigate the case, leading to non-stop trouble. Back in Florida, Willie starts having visions and his dad gets skittish that his wife doesn’t answer her phone. This time, it’s the men who come to the rescue–sort of. The motorcycle ride from Vegas to Laughlin, with Willie in the sidecar, slows them down. And the chance meeting between Willie and a famous ghost from the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona gives Willie new insights.
Although Sylvia and Willie are serious characters, the situations they get themselves into are a little crazy. Since I enjoy quirkiness and humor in cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries, I let my characters do crazy stuff and make dumb decisions, even when they want to go directions I’d never go myself. It was fun to write. I hope it’s fun to read.